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(Quotes are taken from the book 'The Welsh Revival' by


Thomas Philips, written in 1860)
The Welsh Revival of 1859 shook a sizeable part of Great
Britian and its effects were felt around the world. Thomas
Philips wrote in 1860: ' The whole heathen world is being
rapidly opened to the Gospel. The two great powers that have
for ages opposed its progress throughout a large portion of
the earth - Popery and Mohammedanism - are giving daily
proofs of weakness and decay.'
Oh that we would compare this and other 'awakenings' with
many of the so called 'revivals' of the 20th Century! The
reader will soon see the stark differences....
Characteristics: As with most true revivals there were
defining characteristics of this revival. Although the teaching
of doctrine is not a prominent feature of revivals, certain
doctrines are evident in the churches of the great revivals.
# There was fearsome and persuasive preaching which
included the judgement and the wrath of God upon sin. They
truly understood ' ...the terror of the Lord' to 'persuade men'
(2Cor.5:11).
# There was a genuine fear of God.
# There was dramatic increase in the urgency in prayer.
# The Sovereignty of God's work was mysterious but
evident. Revivals often broke out suddenly at different places
at the same time.
# Holiness. People who thought they were holy were
severely struck with a realisation they were in need of Gods
work of sanctification.
# The lost were reached suddenly and sovereignly.
# The churches were Evangelical. They held to the 'doc-
trines of Grace' such as Justification ('Sola Fide') & Scripture
alone ('Sola Scriptura'). The original term 'Evangelical' was
historically and doctrinally synonymous with the terms 'Prot-
estant' and ' Sola Scriptura' (' Scripture Alone' ). Modern
Evangelicals have broadened Evangelical to mean simply
the Greek word for Gospel (evangel). Thus we now have
Roman Catholics and Pentecostal/Charismatics claiming them-
selves as Evangelical. The former violate true Sola Scriptura
with another gospel; the latter with the addition of extra-
biblical revelations, (including prophecy as foretelling words
from God rather than forthtelling written Scripture). To be
truly 'Evangelical' in its original sense is to accept the doc-
trine of 'Sola Scriptura' (Scripture Alone). The great revivals
came to churches that held and preached this doctrine in its
original form.*
The beginnings: The 1859 Welsh revival began in Bregan
in Cardiganshire and by the instrumentality of two men -
David Morgan (a Calvinistic Methodist) and Humphrey Jones
(a Wesleyan preacher). However, Jones was soon laid aside
with 'physical debility, mental depression and a change of
views as to the mode of promoting a revival.' (P.138) Jones
became a recluse and not a part of his own denomination.
The Calvinistic Methodists had been favoured with many
revivals in the past but this Welsh revival was not confined to
one denomination and most orthodox evangelical denomina-
tions were awakened.
It is believed that Mr Jones preached a sermon which
Morgan heard and everyone in the church put their head down
and wept. The Following week prayer meetings were held
every night and men who had never graced a church were
present. 'There was a beauty, a loveliness about the holy
The Welsh Revival (1859)
Word which we had never hitherto perceived. New light
seemed to be thrown on it. It electrified us, and caused us to
weep with joy. The feeling became general. All present were
under its influence. The hardest hearts were forced to
succumb...We could have prayed all night...every heart was
subdued. No one dared to speak, except by tears...we were at
a loss to know what course should be adopted...at length the
minister rose, and slowly and pathetically read several ap-
propriate portions of the Word of God. We then sang, and
afterwards prayed again. And thus the meeting was carried
on for 4 hours...The effects were...we felt more serious, more
ready to speak about our religious life, more anxious as
regards the salvation of the world...' (P.12,13)
The effects: It is believed by writers at the time that up to
50,000 were swept into the Kingdom of Heaven in one year.
Calvinistic Methodist churches were favoured the most with
souls, followed by the Independents and then the Baptists.
'There are considerable additions to the parish churches
...and to the independents, Baptists, and Wesleyans. About
3000 have been added to the Calvinistic Methodists alone [In
Llandovery]. The fire is spreading still...our prayer meetings
are becoming crowded, and a powerful spirit of prayer has
laid hold of the churches'. (P.21)
'There is scarcely a congregation in the whole of the Welsh
district of the country which has not been more or less moved.
I am not able to furnish you with the exact number added to
our churches, but I am certain that at least two thousand have
joined our societies [Welsh Congregational churches] since
April 1859...the majority is made up of young people from
fifteen to thirty.' (P.45-46)
An immediate result of the revival was less discord and
more unity in prayer with other churches of the same persua-
sion. Drunkenness in most places almost ceased and in some
areas could not be found at all. Many Public Houses (Pubs)
closed, (12 closed in Bethesda). There was a social revival as
well as spiritual; moral standards were heightened; repent-
ance was openly evident; the Sabbath (Sunday) was more
strictly observed; and cursing and swearing in quarries ceased.
'Sinners and some very notorious ones, are flocking to the
church by the scores, and I may say hundreds,...in the town of
Aberystwith about 400 members have been added to the
Calvinistic Methodist church alone. Several of the most un-
godly people in the town have been converted. Eight publi-
cans have taken down their signs, and become teetotallers.
The work commenced here one Friday night when Mr. David
Morgan was preaching...the chapel filled to overflowing.'
(P.19)
Another wrote: '..Something awfully strong takes hold of
the minds of the people...We have seen numbers with weeping
eyes leaving...but unable to go further than the door; they feel
compelled to return again, and offer themselves as candi-
dates for admission into the church...at the close of the public
service, 20 or 30 of the worst characters remaining behind, to
be spoken to and prayed for.' (P.20)
[Ysgoldy, Llanddeiniolen, 1860] 'The public houses are
nearly emptied...we do not now require a police officer...The
two chapels have become too small to contain the hearers.'
(P.115)
'There is...a considerable change in the aspect of the
neighborhoods...The temperance movement gathers strength,
and some of the public houses are gasping for breath, as
though they were in the last struggle.' (P.30)...One of the most
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remarkable things is the disappearance of drunkenness.'
(P.39)
[Flintshire] 'The public houses are empty and the people
flock to the house of Lord...on the 9th of January all the shops
were closed, and during the whole of that week business was
suspended at halfpast six in the evening. The chapels were
crowded every evening, even on the evening of the market
day...I have had the pleasure of seeing some who were among
my hearers when I came here...make a profession of Christ,
after sitting 23 years under my ministry.' (P.66)
'On every occasion care is taken to instruct the people in
the true and unchangeable principles of religion. They are
cautioned against resting in a mere outward profession. They
are told that excitement is not conversion, that an awakening
of the conscience to a sense of guilt and danger does not
always result in a change of heart. It is strongly and con-
stantly urged that whatever hope or confidence they may have
in their own minds as to their having 'passed from death unto
life' - it is a mistake, a delusion, unless it is accompanied by
a hatred to sin, and a renunciation of it in every shape and
form; a love to holiness, and the practical discharge of every
moral duty. They are told that the Bible is to be the standard
of religious feeling, as it is of religious faith. In short they are
admonished to seek a thorough change of heart, and to
furnish evidence thereof in holiness of life'. (P. 82)...'I have
gathered from enquiry that not one person in every 50 of
those who have assumed a profession of religion within the
last 4 or 6 months, has relapsed into the world.' (P.117)
Modern 'revivals' have been characterised by the phenom-
ena of 'slaying in the spirit' whereby people are overcome and
usually fall backwards to the ground by a force said to be the
Holy Spirit. Many of the supporters of this phenomena at-
tempt to root this phenomena in the past true revival meetings,
where people did fall to the ground. However, these were
called 'faintings' or 'prostrations' in which people fell for-
wards on their face. This was not a common thing as it is today
and it was also during and under the influence of some of the
most powerful preaching in history. John Wesley, George
Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards wrote of people falling on
their faces during the preaching in repentance and crying out
to God for mercy and salvation from their sins. This is a far
cry from the falling backwards into altered states of con-
sciousness, (ASC). Many of the revivalists also stated clearly
that even many of the 'faintings' were demonic or fleshly
activity. There was also no human agent mediating and no
'catchers' as we see in churches today. They fell forwards and
often with a fear for their lives!
[Glamorganshire] 'We have no cases of physical prostra-
tion; persons are not struck to the ground here, as in Ireland
and Scotland; but we have many cases of very sudden and
powerful changes...' (P.32)...'The soul is in danger - on the
brink of, almost in Hell; they see it - they feel it; and in deep
mental distress cry for deliverance. A Saviour is revealed to
them in their despair; they behold him - believe in him; they
are rescued - saved; they know it, they rejoice, and in forget-
fulness of themselves, and indifferent to all around, they
sometimes leap for joy! It should be stated however, that
judicious ministers and elders do not encourage what may be
regarded as an excessive exhibition of feeling, more espe-
cially when it interferes with the usual order of the public
service, or when it disturbs or hinders the devotion of oth-
ers...' (P.129,130)
Prayer!: 'The first symptoms of the work appeared...in a
revival of the spirit of prayer...We all wished to pray. We all
delighted to pray. We were all impelled to pray, by an unseen
power. Those who had, a few weeks before, very little inclina-
tion for prayer meetings, and very seldom attended them, are
among the foremost in promoting the work...This had a marked
influence on the world...Many became deeply concerned about
their souls, and earnestly sought the Lord for mercy, through
the blood of Jesus, shed for the remission of sins. It became
evident to all that our prayers were answered - that the spirit
was poured out from on high; for almost every night was seen
the tears of the penitent, were heard the sighs and sobs of the
mourner and broken hearted, and the cries of those who saw
their lost condition..' (P.41)
[Stansbatch] '...A little girl came forward, seeking the
Lord in deep distress. When we were directing her to the
Saviour, a man was heard sobbing and weeping bitterly, and
crying aloud for mercy. 'O God,' he said, 'have mercy upon
me; oh! save me or I die.' He was the little girls father. He
rose and moved to his little daughter, and threw his arms
round her neck, and both, weeping and broken hearted, knelt
down, and continued in earnest prayer for about 15 minutes.
The father continued in great distress for many days. At a
subsequent meeting he told us...that the Lord had mercy upon
him - that his burden had been removed - that his sins had
been forgiven - and that he knew now what it was to rejoice
on Jesus.' (P.44)
[North Wales slate quarries] '[The workers] were in deep
concern for their souls...they followed their work in this state
of mind, occasionally weeping on account of their lost condi-
tion as guilty sinners before God. After dinner...making their
way to the top of the hill...about 500 in number...they held a
prayer meeting. Whilst they prayed the Holy Spirit was poured
out upon t hem. . . nearl y al l present wept and sobbed
aloud...prayer meetings were multiplied and held in the open
air amongst the quarrymen.' (P.47-49)
'...in the prayer meetings, a sense of awful condemnation,
and an agonising dread of God's wrath, seemed to overwhelm
them, so that they were forced to cry aloud for mercy. Some-
times they would fall down on their knees...a brother would
attempt to pray but his feelings would soon be so overpow-
ered that he would be obliged to sit down or...fall down on
their faces...I will defy the hardest and most callous sinner to
remain five minutes within hearing of these prayers without
being in tears. In fact they are not prayers, but the broken
accents and the agonising groans of souls, held, as it were,
over the flames of Hell...When the law has done its work with
them, and the Saviour found...it is then all thanksgiving and
praise...
...Young men, from 15 to 20 years old continue to pray
often till midnight and sometimes until three or four o'clock
in the morning. Women, also, have their prayer meetings by
themselves, and they are as warm in it as the men.' (P.51,52)
'There are clear signs of that which the Bible represents as
conviction of sin - the pricking of the heart - a broken and
contrite spirit - repentance towards God, and faith in our
Lord Jesus Christ...' (P.63)
'... meetings for prayer are separately held by six different
parties: first, by little boys from 6 to 12 years; secondly, by
boys from 10 to 15; thirdly, by young men; fourthly by girls
from 8 to 15; fifthly by young women; sixthly by adults of all
ages.' (P.67)
Such was the mighty 1859 Welsh revival - a revival in
which God sovereignly brought an urgency in prayer and
holiness unto the Lord. The Lord was glorified and in His
mercy He saved multitudes of lost sinners. Terry Arnold
* See Diakrisis July/2000